The adsorption of 115 emerging contaminants, mainly organic chemicals identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 Contaminant Candidate List 3, was ranked using two published classical quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models and a newly developed quantum QSAR model. Approximately 75% of the investigated contaminants were predicted to be cost-effectively treatable, with an activated carbon usage rate below 10 mg/L. A limited experimental validation campaign was carried out by rapid small-scale column testing (RSSCT) using Lake Ontario water for eight selected compounds: 17β-estradiol, ibuprofen, diazinon, sulfamethoxazole, carbamazepine, 4-nonylphenol diethoxalyate, azithromycin and tylosin, with the activated carbon adsorption of the latter three having never been previously reported. The experimental results were consistent with the quantum chemistry model rankings.